by Aleta Kay
You’ve committed adultery. Or you’ve fallen “off the wagon.” You’ve done something that you just can’t forgive yourself for. So you work harder, contribute to more charities, never turn down anyone who asks a favor or needs help. You sign up for every committee possible; work out at the gym, involve yourself in any physical activity you can in order to atone for what you did.
Suddenly someone finds out what you did and the backlash is severe. The accusations tear at your soul and you get defensive because you don’t want to admit to anyone else what you did. Besides, haven’t you done enough to make up for it? You asked God to forgive you, and you’re certain He did. (If you were sincere, then you are forgiven.)
Still, the guilt plagues you and when you finally, years later, come face to face with it again, and it threatens everything you hold dear, you suddenly feel like giving up on God, church, family, everything. What’s the use? No matter what you do, it doesn’t wash it away.
Friend, every action we take has consequences, and some are far reaching. The Bible tells us that the sins of the fathers are passed down all the way to the third and fourth generations. King David committed adultery with Bathsheba; she got pregnant with his child, and David had her husband put on the front lines in battle to practically ensure his death. God forgave David of his sin, but part of the consequences was that the child died. Repentance doesn’t mean no consequences. No amount of good deeds you do will erase those consequences. But God is merciful and will restore us to completeness in Him if we let Him. You can’t work it out yourself; you can’t do enough penance to erase the guilt you feel. You can’t earn God’s forgiveness. It’s free for the asking if you are sincerely sorry for what you have done. True repentance means you turn away from your sin and turn toward God. People are not always so forgiving. God never says no to true repentance. Jesus told those he healed, “Go and sin no more.”